Civil Partnership Bill to go before Dáil in new session

 

LEGISLATION THAT recognises same-sex partnerships has been included in the list of Bills the Government intends to publish before Easter.

The Civil Partnership Bill, which gives recognition to same-sex relationships, has been included in the legislative programme for the spring session announced yesterday by Government Chief Whip Pat Carey.

The programme also contains two Bills dealing with the current economic crisis.

The Financial Services (Deposit Guarantee Scheme) Bill will give legal effect to the Government’s pledge to protect depositors in Irish-based banks up to a sum of €100,000.

An amendment to existing legislation will also allow the National Pensions Reserve Fund to use its funds to recapitalise the banks.

However, the Bill allowing the sharing of so-called “soft information” relating to the endangerment or sexual abuse of children is not included in the A list or priority list of legislation.

It is one of a number of Bills listed, the heads of which have yet to be approved by Government.

In the wake of the controversy over the reporting of abuse allegations in the Cloyne diocese, Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews promised that the legislation would be enacted before the summer. The absence of the Bill from yesterday’s A list was criticised by Fine Gael.

Nor has any indication been given as to when the Defamation Bill, published since 2006, will continue its passage through the Oireachtas. It is one of 25 pieces of legislation listed as being before the Dáil and Seanad.

The Defamation Bill and the connected Privacy Bill are among just four pieces of legislation that date back to 2006 or earlier. The others are the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005 and the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2006.

A commitment to bring forward a Civil Partnership Bill was included in the programme for government at the behest of the Green Party.

There was some internal opposition within Fianna Fáil and a motion opposing the Bill was signed by 20 TDs and Senators ahead of a parliamentary party meeting that discussed the legislation.

Other planned legislation includes a Planning Bill that will oblige planning authorities to support targeted investment in infrastructure under the National Development Plan.

It will also modernise land zoning and streamline the planning process for offshore energy development. A new development levy incentive will also be introduced.

On the criminal side, promised Bills include a new Forensic Sampling and Evidence Bill that will provide for the setting up of a DNA database.

A Covert Surveillance Bill will place existing practices by the security forces on a statutory basis in line with obligations imposed by the European Court of Human Rights.

Another Bill will give effect to the Government commitment to put an end to the rule of double jeopardy (which prohibits a person being retried for the same offence) in certain cases and to put victim impact statements on a statutory basis.

Labour Party chief whip Emmet Stagg yesterday said that some of the 18 Bills promised will “never see the light of day”.

He pointed out that 10 of the Bills appeared on the list of priority legislation last autumn but were not published, as promised, before the end of 2008.

“Not one of the five Bills from the Department of Justice, promised for the last session, has been published. All five are again included on the new list.

“The Employment Agency Regulation Bill, which is again on the promised list for this session, was originally promised by the Government as part of the Towards 2016 process. That was concluded more than three years ago,” said Mr Stagg.

Fine Gael’s spokesman on children, Alan Shatter, said he was astonished that Mr Andrews had failed to prepare legislation to allow for the use of soft information.

“The Government was capable of speedily producing urgent legislation to address the banking crisis, but it is clearly incapable of producing urgent legislation to provide additional protection to children at risk of abuse or neglect,” Mr Shatter said.